“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” – Plato
Recently, I was talking to a client about her stress level at work. The conversation took me back to a time when I was working in corporate and felt completely overwhelmed as I rushed from one meeting to the next, one task to the next. I remember waking up every morning and going to bed every night thinking, I’ll never be able to do everything that’s on my to-do list!
Can you relate?
Chances are, you know just how bad this feels, and just how exhausted and frustrated you become. Staying late and working longer hours only partially helps.
You do a bit more initially, but end up being less productive and more tired. So in the end, you just don’t perform as well. Your body get tired, and your brain, too.
As I connected to those old feelings, I reflected back on what I’m doing now that feels so different. I began jotting down a list of things I do to keep balanced and on purpose.
As you read the list below, what would you like to add that’s been working for you?
Please let me know in the comments section at the bottom of this post. I welcome your feedback!
“Time management is a misnomer, the real challenge is to manage ourselves.” – Stephen Covey
A Busy Professional Life
For those of you who don’t know me, I am a certified holistic health expert, specializing in natural women’s health solutions, but also an employee for a large corporation. I work there 3 days a week, and have a few big responsibilities that could keep me long in the office well after working hours if I’m not careful.
Along those same lines, my holistic health coaching practice takes a lot of time from me – not that I mind of course! – and it would be easy to work far too much and exhaust myself.
However, I know that keeping balance in my life is important. How do I know that? Because, a few years back, I absolutely had no idea what balance meant.
I was working for a company where I was pushed to always give more. This over-giving to my job while under-caring for myself created some pretty serious health consequence.
In the 4 ½ years at that job, I ended up getting bronchitis, pneumonia, and eventually discovering I had endometriosis that resulted in surgery, followed by a year of chronic pain and – eventually – burnout.
Being Stressful Took Its Toll
Living in physical and emotional pain was like a waking nightmare. And yet so many women suffer in silence. It starts with stress turning into physical symptoms, often hormonal issues. Lethargy sets in, followed by an emotional roller-coaster.
For me, this led to sleeping through an entire weekend (36 hours in a row!), and feeling increasingly out of control with my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I know from the women I’ve known over the past few years who went through a similar experience, that this was not just me.
What Is Balance?
We often hear about work-life balance. But what is it?
The definition of balance is “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady”. In my mind, that means that whatever you set out to do, should be big enough that there is weight to it, but not that big that it makes you fall over under its weight.
In the next section, I am sharing with you a few examples of how I keep my balance, and will share with you some tips that friends and colleagues have shared with me about their own practices too.
22 Time Management Tips To Stay Stress-Free
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” – William James
1. Take Time To Plan Your Day
You only need 10 minutes, and you’ll feel so much more in control after you’ve done that! No more time spent on assessing again your to do list and what needs to be done!
Additionally, it helps you to see where your time is going!
- At the end of the day reflect on your goals. What are you trying to achieve? What should you spend time on?
- Take 10 minutes to brainstorm what needs to be done on the next day. What do you need help with? Who can help you?
“Time flies. It is up to you to be the navigator.” – Robert Orben
2. Forget Multi-tasking, “Pomodoro” Your Day
We often hear about multi-tasking and sometimes feel that we should be able to use this tool as well as our colleagues do. Even though it is a fascinating concept – in fact, our modern world seems addicted to it – the long term effects of multi-tasking do not appear to be particularly worth it: increased stress and lower effectiveness.
It is much better to be focusing on one thing at a time and doing that thing well.
My tool of choice for that: the Pomodoro technique!
In simple terms: I decide the day before, what my next day will look like, by planning my to do’s by batches of 25 + 5 minutes.
I have found it very useful in terms of my corporate role. It allows me to feel in control of my days, by blocking my time for specific actions, and helps me keep my stress levels down.
As an entrepreneur, I have more trouble implementing this, as I always want to do too much. So, I review my strategy for the week during the weekend, and decide then what I will be working on every day that I spend on my practice.
For clients calls, it is clear that they are already blocked in my calendar. Then come different types of activities such as business development, studies, preparing for sessions with clients, preparing handouts and doing research, etc.
I always have a list of things I want to get done and, before my day starts, I take the time to decide what I will work on that day depending on my priorities.
- Technology is often a culprit in multitasking. This week, use only one type of technology or media at a time.
- Practice being present in the moment. For every task you perform, give it your full attention and refuse to be distracted from it.
“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost
3. Do The Worst First
4. Taming Emails
For anything that comes in my inbox with an output needed, I set out a 30 minutes time slot in the next few days or weeks (depending on when the deadline is), including an alert, and then move the email into a folder. To me that means that it is being taken care of, and I can clear my head and move onto the next things.
Sort your emails by subject or sender. That way, you can process related messages together and save time.
And if you are receiving too many emails, unsubscribe!
- Decide on a limit of number of emails you wish to have in your inbox, and stick to it. Delete emails, schedule tasks, unsubscribe from particular information sent by email.
Make sure you are in charge of your inbox, you know what is important, coming in and how to sort it, and not the other way around.
5. ACT in Response To Interruptions
- A: Allow (or accept)
- C: Cut it off at the pass (or curtail)
- T: Triage
6. Take Breaks During Your Day
That includes lunch and going home in the evening. If I have something to do, I try to get up earlier in the morning and be in the office earlier, and leave as usual. Then I know my evening routine is not endangered.
As you go through the day, also understand that it is as important for you to work on your to do’s than it is to take a break from them. The fact of taking a break from them will help you clear your mind for the next task, and re-prioritize what is important as you progress.
It will not only clear your mind but also re-energize you. In the same way that you use your brain power during the day, so do you use your physical energy. So taking a break to experience your body is important too.
- Decide when to take a short break during your day and schedule it in your planning. Do remember to take that break, and see how better you feel after it. Become accountable to yourself for how your time is being spent, and the time you invest in yourself.
7. Let Your Frustration Out
9. Drink Water
As I work throughout the day, I remind myself to drink. First and foremost because otherwise I’ll get very thirsty, but also because if I don’t drink enough, I’ll get very tired too.
Did you know that thirst can sometimes lead to tiredness, i.e. low physical energy?
That’s quite incredible when you think about it, that such a small thing as drinking water can help you feel more energized. And yet it does!
- Aim to drink 2 to 2.5 liters of water a day. If you see you don’t reach that goal, add a tall glass of warm water in the morning, and add reminders to your calendar to drink more water during the day.
10. Remember To Eat
You wouldn’t think of driving a car without fuel, right? Because you know that it would stop working and wouldn’t bring you to where you desire to go!
It’s the same with food and your body. When you feed your body with what fuels it, it will thank you by giving you the energy and the drive to accomplish what you want to. When you don’t… well… let’s say it won’t!
- Plan your lunch and dinner breaks, even your snack breaks. And, listen to your body as you eat, so that you can discover which foods help you thrive, and which foods make you dive!
“Don’t tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done.” – James Ling
11. Plan For The Unexpected
Every day, something unexpected can happen. Plan some of your day for these unexpected tasks that you will need to and want to do.
- Plan your day including some time for extra unexpected tasks.
- Review how much you are planning for these daily until you find the right amount of time.
12. Organize Your Office/Your Workspace
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” – Olin Miller
13. Get Out Of Your Chair And Stretch
14. Learn To Ignore Things
15. Learn To Say No
Never say yes without considering how long what you’re saying yes to is going to take you. Have the courage to say no, save yourself the time to work on what is important for you, and even spend the time on yourself.
16. Keep A Journal
You can only improve what you track. There why you need a journal.
17. Limit Social Media And Other Distractions
19. Working Longer Doesn’t Equal Higher Productivity
It can also be counter-productive. For example, it has been shown that working incredibly long hours can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Chronic stress
- Chronic body pain
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Burnout (i.e. adrenal exhaustion)
Stress is how you respond to what happens to you. It is not something that happens to you. At the same time the role of stress is to keep you alive.
21. Learn To Experiment
22. Prepare For Action
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson